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The Looking Glass River Expedition was held June 2-5, 2016, and brought kayakers and canoeists from throughout Michigan to the DeWitt area to paddle, camp and enjoy the community. The 31-mile event was organized by the Middle Grand River Organization of Watersheds (MGROW), with support from Friends of the Looking Glass River and the Clinton Conservation District.
“We want to make people care about the river that flows through our back yards,” said Gloria Miller, MGROW board member and president of Friends of the Looking Glass River. “The Looking Glass has clean water and beautiful scenery. It also faces many challenges. When people get out on the river and experience it from a canoe or kayak, they learn first hand about the need to take better care of it.”
The event kicked off Thursday evening, June 2, with group camping at Riverside Park in DeWitt. Canoes and kayaks were unloaded, ready for launch the next day.
Friday, June 3, began with an opening ceremony in the morning, followed by presentations on the Looking Glass watershed and aquatic invasive plants. Participants kept arriving and unloading their human-powered watercraft, bringing the number of paddlers to 46.
With assistance from the Lansing Oar and Paddle Club (LOAPC), a van and trailer transported paddlers and boats upstream to Waters’ Edge Park, an undeveloped DeWitt Township Parks property on the river at Wood Road and Round Lake Road. With everyone on the water, the group paddled 3.5 miles downstream back to DeWitt. They encountered one logjam that required portaging but LOAPC volunteers were on the riverbank ready to help.
“Logjams are a challenge for a river expedition,” Miller explained. “Although they help aquatic ecosystems by providing habitat for fish and other purposes, they can harm the river when they create a complete blockage. They also make paddling difficult.”
Since August 2015, volunteers from throughout the Lansing area put in hundreds of hours of labor to cut recreational passages through the jams with minimal impacts to the river channel.
The paddlers landed at Riverside Park in time for a visit from Sue Leeming, DeWitt’s Mayor Pro Tem, and Dan Cos, DeWitt City Manager. After dinner at a choice of local restaurants, there was live music at Riverside under the pavilion and a second night of camping.
Saturday morning, June 4, the paddlers launched for the 10 miles to Heritage Park in Wacousta and arrived in camp just before the rain. They sat under the pavilion, ate dinner, enjoyed more live music and traded river stories.
On Sunday, June 5, the group completed the final day of the expedition, paddling nearly 17 miles to Portland where the Looking Glass River joins the Grand River. The adventurers went their separate ways but they had made new friends and gained a new appreciation for the river.
MGROW also hosts the Grand River Expedition every 10 years, with the next one scheduled for 2020.